Even main stage west headliners Foals dedicated one of the final songs of their set to the man himself. Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis said, ‘This song is dedicated to our brother Sam Fender. It’s the Black Bull, but it may as well be the black and white bull.’
From early in the day, there was no mistake who the crowd were at Bramham Park to see. Black and White shirts were visible around the site as far as the eye could see. Many shirts featured not the names of legendary footballers on the back, but rather Fender and the number 17.
Fresh off the back of a run of sold-out shows at Newcastle’s St James’ Park earlier in the summer and a headline spot at Reading Festival the night before, Sam’s top-of-the-bill Leeds appearance was always going to be a dream come true for the North Shields native.
On stage Fender recollected attending the event as a teenager watching bands like Kasabian play on the very same stage he was standing on Saturday night. Like many of the younger fans in attendance, going to a festival like Leeds has become almost like a rite of passage.
Sam’s headline performance was one further bucket list event to tick off for the beloved North East superstar. And whilst he was standing in the same spot where many of his heroes had played before him, Sam is more than comfortable at headlining an event of this magnitude. His rapport with the audience showed how humble and grounded the musician is. The way Sam chats with the audience feels like he was chatting with his friends down the pub. His stage banter was superb.
Not only that, it was the way he handled the crowd and the care and concern to which he addressed the audience in situations where he perhaps thought a fan may have required assistance. Several times during the evening, Sam paused between songs to help fans in need.
But what of the music, I hear you say. Fender’s arrived at Bramham Park with an arsenal of festival anthems. The chart-topping star took to the stage with the
sounds of The World We Knew by Frank Sinatra playing over the main stage PA. A change of tact for the ‘local hero’.
A three-song rampage featuring The Kitchen, Will We Talk, and the aptly titled Getting Started got the proceedings underway. Furthermore, the atmospheric sounds of Dead Boys featuring the virtuoso sax playing of Johnny ‘Bluehat’ Davis resonated around Bramham Park.
Electrifying renditions of Spice and Howden Aldi Death Queue had the crowd forming mosh pits at either side of the gargantuan field. Following which the headliner said we’ve got the punk ones out of the way, so now we can chill out. And Get You Down was the perfect track to do so.
An emotive rendition of Spit of You and the astounding Dying Light was the perfect way to close out the main stage as the moon shone over Bramham Park. Even Sam addressed how amazing the moon looked in the night sky, he jokingly compared its appearance to Tatooine in Star Wars.
With a race towards curfew, the encore was action-packed, as one would imagine. The inclusion of Saturday was not only fitting on our favourite night of the week, but it also had the whole crowd singing wholeheartedly at the tops of their voices. Whilst the anthemic Seventeen Going Under and a firework finish for Hypersonic Missiles brought perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated sets at this year’s Leeds Festival to an explosive conclusion.
The North of England may have claimed the headliner as their own, but with the global success of the Tyneside superstar, today it’s Bramham Park, but for Sam Fender, the next stop is the world. Congratulations Sam, you did the North East proud.
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Elsewhere around the festival site on Saturday, Lil Tjay finally made it to the site to open the main stage west early in the afternoon with an unplanned set. The rapper missed his show on Friday due to logistical challenges but made up for it with an electrifying performance early in the day.
The beauty of events like the Leeds Festival is wandering around the many stages of the site and seeing what talents you discover. US-based artists like Jesse Jo Stark and Nessa Barrett wowed the audiences away from the main stages. Whilst UK-based Grammy winners Wet Leg captivated the main stage east crowd with their infectious indie anthems.
Leeds Festival concludes with Sunday night headliners The Killers and The 1975.